Glass Hammer have been teasing a concept album based on “the ultimate prog fan”, and now it’s official.
Fans will no doubt recognize the name “Tom” from 2000’s ‘Chronometree’ release and videos on Glass Hammer’s social media sites show that Tom has recently resurfaced to promote his own music. Bassist Steve Babb explains, “While ‘Chronometree’ documented Tom’s prog-rock influenced alien-encounter in 1979, our new album ‘Chromomonaut’ tells the stranger story of all that happened later; from Tom’s failed early eighties prog-rock band, The Elf King, to his most recent musings on nostalgia and the glory days of progressive rock.”
To lend credibility to the ‘Chronomonaut’ story, the character of Tom began posting his own music and theories on time travel to YouTube and at least one well-known progressive rock forum (progressiveears.org) several months ago using the name “The Elf King”. Glass Hammer has also been releasing “found footage” video of Tom, supposedly from 1983, which documents his time travel experiments as well as the failure of his own prog band to secure a record deal.
“Tom is a frustrated guy,” says Babb. “He’s growing older and his prog heroes are retiring or sadly passing away. We all reflect as these things happen and we’re all guilty of romanticizing the past, but Tom makes the bold attempt to actually go back in time. Is the music in his prog collection powerful enough to make this happen? Can he really get back there? That’s what ‘Chronomonaut’ is all about.”
Bandmates Fred Schendel, Susie Bogdanowicz and Aaron Raulston are all on board for this release. Guest appearances include Discipline’s Matthew Parmenter and Chris Herin.
“Chronomonaut” will be released on Friday, October 12th. Pre-ordering for autographed copies will begin one month ahead of the release on September 12th at the band’s website.
The trouble with being a reviewer of the product that gets sent through by the guys at Progradar is that it is almost always of the very highest quality. Every now and then you get an album through that shines brightly, that’s brilliant from the first listen and that just blows you away. But, when that happens, sometimes other albums fade in comparison. And if an album doesn’t get you on first listen, with the sheer weight of great work out there, it will sometimes not get the attention it deserves.
Initially, seeing as I received it at the same time I received the amazing album, ‘3.2 The Rules Have Changed’, by Robert Berry and Keith Emerson, ‘The Persistence’, by Italian progressives Kingcrow, fell into that category of not grabbing me at first, not quite hitting the mark; it initially just didn’t have enough for me to quite want to give it a bit of extra attention. And, because I really am loathe writing a review if it’s not going to find anything constructive, I put it to the back of my mind. But something kept me coming back to it, nagging me to plug in my headphones, to give it another chance.
I’m so glad I did, as with more and more listens I began to really enjoy the luscious melodies that the band has created in this album. Still including their base and original heavy metal roots they have never the less explored, matured and developed their sound to become, as band member Diego Cafolla explains in the band’s press release, ‘a dark ambient, more modern vibe’ that fits beautifully with their existing heavy rock persona.
The Italian nation has always been at the forefront of the development of intelligent, melodic music, be that from the classical composers of old right up to the progressive rock of 1970’s bands such as Osanna and Area. With this album, Kingcrow have taken that legacy on, developed it and updated it whilst keeping true to their base heavy rock roots. It’s a difficult trick to do; undoubtedly new directions can sometimes confound or even upset existing fans. But in the case of ‘The Persistence’, as it was for me, the listener’s persistence will be rewarded by 10 lovingly crafted, gorgeously melodic and interesting songs that still have enough of a heavy metal bite to please the existing fan as they enter a journey of discovery with Kingcrow.
A 13-track journey through the best of Anathema’s Kscope years Feat. “Thin Air”, “Untouchable”, “Dreaming Light” and “Springfield”
“The band isn’t just a way of life, its been much more than that. To us, as a family, writing music of such honesty, and reaching people who feel it similarly, is as profound an expression of art and life as its possible to be. People have said to me it must be cathartic to write songs like this. I often say the real gift is in the people I do it with. For what we share and what we mean to each other when all is said and done.. The landscapes are internal” – Daniel Cavanagh
Internal Landscapes showcases the highly influential Liverpool sextet’s uncompromising dedication to fearless artistry. They’ve continually evolved since 1990 by placing hope in the future – from leaving the underground scene they were fundamental in establishing to continually mesmerising the world with dramatic post-progressive alternative rock that knows no borders.
The release of Internal Landscapes follows an extensive worldwide headline tour, including performances at Download Festival, ArcTanGent and Wembley Arena with Opeth in support of their 2017 studio album The Optimist. The release won the Album of the Year at the Progressive Music Awards ’17, reached the top 10 in the Polish charts, top 20 in Germany, top 40 in the UK, and has 5.8 million track streams on Spotify. This built on the success of their previous Kscope material, which also won at the Progressive Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Live Event of the Year & Multimedia Package of the Year for 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here, 2012’s Weather Systems and 2013’s Universal.
This collection, curated by the band, selects the best works from their prolific output on the ground-breaking label Kscope since 2008. In this time the band left their heavier roots and transcended into emotional heaviness that resonated deep within the heart of the listener. It takes its name from the band’s perhaps most heartfelt song, from their most popular album of the period, Weather Systems.
Daniel Cavanagh has provided the album sleeve notes and the artwork was created by long-time collaborator Travis Smith.
Internal Landscapes will be released on CD, LP and available through usual download and streaming platforms and is available to pre-order HERE
Internal Landscapes 2008-2018 tracklisting
1. Anathema [06:41]
2. Untouchable part 1 [06:14]
3. Untouchable part 2 [05:33]
4. Thin Air [06:00]
5. Ariel [06:29]
6. Can’t Let Go [04:34]
7. Dreaming Light [05:47]
8. Are you There? [05:11]
9. J’ai Fait Une Promesse [03:33]
10. Leaving It Behind [04:27]
11. Springfield [05:42]
12. Distant Satellites [08:07]
13. Internal Landscapes [08:37]
To coincide with the release of Internal Landscapes and the 10 Years Of Kscope show on 2nd October in London, Anathema will be playing a series of intimate acoustic shows, under the title Ambient Acoustic Tour. Anathema will be touring these shows as a four-piece featuring Daniel & Vincent Cavanagh and Lee & John Douglas. Support act(s) will be announced shortly.
Daniel Cavanagh introduces the tour:
“Welcome to a new Anathema experience: Ambient Acoustic. In exploring what we might do to expand the music still further, out of thin air came the idea to arrange music in a ‘third way’, in the space between the acoustic band and the live rock band. With ‘ambient acoustic’ we feel freer to explore many textures, mixing live loops, piano, strings, percussion, electronics, guitars and voices, all within the essence of the songs and the emotions they carry. We hope you enjoy this next chapter of the story, the journey of discovery, of searching for something that can never really be found”
28-09: France, Lille, Theatre Le Splendid
29-09: Netherlands, Tilburg, 013
30-09: Netherlands, Amsterdam, Melkweg
01-10: UK, Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
02-10: UK, London, Union Chapel (10 Years Of Kscope)
Time flies, this time last week I was home after a very pleasant trip to the launch party for Encircled’s new album ‘The Universal Mirth’, down in the deepest merging of the potteries’ ‘Five Towns’ so named by author Arnold Bennett (though it was actually six), in Stoke On Trent.
I had the great pleasure of reviewing their last outing, ‘The Monkey Jamboree’ and, if you have not heard it, treat yourself. May I recommend it is best listened to with the lights dimmed and a tipple of your choice in a cosy environment after a hard day at work.
A short balmy stroll from my less than salubrious lodgings and I found myself in front of a small shop (converted into a community project area) by the name of Pilgrims Pit. It hardly seemed big enough to swing a cat in but still managed to fit a plentifully stocked little bar in the corner, with welcome cool drinks.
Warmly met by bassist/keyboards (twiddly bits, errors and virtual drums) Scott Evans, I was introduced to the other band members; the genial Mark ‘Busby’ Burrows on vocals and favourite Fender plus acoustic and the ever cool Gareth ‘Gaz’ Evans playing a delicious custom guitar (I’m told he never smiles, but they lie). I was informed the place could actually take up to fifty people and though the band’s gear took up a fair area, around thirty to forty turned out for the night and it was good to meet some fellow passengers and some new faces.
Whilst the talent that is Peter Jones was unable to be there for his guest slots on some tracks, it was a lovely surprise to find they had support from the delightful Kym Hart who, whilst a very accomplished musician in her own right, had graciously given vocal assistance on the band’s new CD.
We were treated to a number of tracks from Kym’s two albums, the latest ‘A Way To Be’ (available at kymhart.bandcamp.com) and ‘Time in Mind’.
Kym also treated us to a track from the new album she is working on and cleverly slipped in a little Marillion passage from Lavender, to favourable response from the appreciative audience. I was surprised, whilst chatting to her, to find she has been doing this for over twenty years but, as so often is the case, she has never received the justified acclaim. Check her out, Kym deserves a wider audience.
Encircled then took the stage, or floor space at any rate. It’s amazing the amount of noise a small group of people can generate when encouraged by such a welcoming group of lads playing infectious music. The warmth for the band was palpable and every track on the set-list was greeted with expectant enthusiasm from the gathering before them, Busby observantly pointing out that, at one point, they were literally ‘encircled’ by the crowd.
Playing a set list made up from TMJ and TUM, they soon had everyone clapping and joining in, the music floating round the room, out of the open the door and down the street, serenading the revellers passing by, some glancing in curiosity or pausing for a while on the pavement outside to bask in the ambience. Inviting Kym up to swell the vocals on given tracks only enhanced the soothing sounds caressing our ears.
A great evening was had by all and it was a real privilege to finally meet the gentlemen behind these albums, you couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of lads who proved they can play it ‘live’. We need to see them in larger venues, come on promoters, don’t miss the opportunity.
A quick shout out to the lads who run the place and staunchly manned the bar for the evening with best wishes and success for future projects. Also a big thank you to Scott’s daughter Freya (the talent behind the cover design for TMJ) as she kindly manned the merch desk all evening.
And so to the new album ‘The Universal Mirth’.
If you read my review of TMJ, you will know how much I enjoyed it, a fine album that regularly takes a spin in our house and in the car:
For me TUM has a more assured footing and lifts the band to a higher podium.Exploring and expounding on the problems in modern society with technology, self image and perception, with the pressures modern living brings, temptations, dangers and the strains on individuals and relationships.
The first three tracks are loosely linked as are the last three, with two more ‘sandwiched’ between, bringing the total to eight meaty tracks which make up this aural feast.
From the hook laden chimes of the first bars, Log In: The Mystical Way whirls through your head warning the miracle is being taken away, demystifying the magic of life. The laid back keyboards and throbbing bass deceiving you, lulling you into a false sense of security whilst access to even your most personal secrets are slowly exposed.
Leading to The Obsession, with a heavier guitar intro, garnered from accessible systems and information available to anyone able to open and retrieve the details. Watched unknowingly, your every move scrutinised and followed, untraceable as the keyboards weep for your loss. Your weaknesses feeding the hidden admiration of those who see your fragilities caused by insecurities and the need to be loved and wanted. The desire to be more beautiful, the pressures of fame, leaving you vulnerable to prying eyes. You no longer have secrets, the information used to mould, persuade and control who you are and what you do.
But what if Past Timesare revealed, what do they unearth, what does it mean for your future? The acoustic guitar intro leads Mark to question if there is a sense of wonder left. Uncertainty, unsure of who to trust, darkest secrets revealed. Are you who you seem and will your past ever let you be who you would like to be, seeking to find someone who will accept you for who you are?
Can you hold down a relationship, what foundations are they built on? Does true love exist in today’s society, increasingly uneasy in the shallow pool of values, to form a bond between couples. If you can’t, you’ll find yourself saying This Is Goodbye. Empty promises, failure to live up to expectations as Gaz’s guitar riffs wave farewell, the laid back delivery wrong-footing you once more.
And once it’s over and gone, dare you trust again? Can you learn to love, have feelings, show your own? Or scarred by the experiences keep your emotions hidden, Smiling On The Inside, afraid to expose yourself for fear of rejection and disappointment. The prospect of being left alone as the keys drop notes like whispers behind your back. Can you face it and be strong enough to take on a relationship once more as the guitars gently mock you in the background?
The adulation craved, the need to be loved and wanted, enveloped in a Marillion and Genesis homage of guitars and keyboards on 22 Likes with the band’s influences rising to the surface. The restriction of being in the public eye, creation of a persona and the inability to be yourself around others.
This segues into track seven on a wave of Bill Nelson type guitar, drifting into a Floydian style passage as Kym’s extensive vocal range soars over the instruments to create a Fantastic Souvenir of breathtaking music.
A flute introduces the band finale as they reach to Log Out: The Universal Mirth, breaking away from it all, finding the strength to step out, moulding the lyrical and musical style of Fish era Marillion into their own sound, to tremendous effect. Peter Jones‘ guest keyboard solos burst like the petals of summer flowers opening to embrace the mood and flourish over Mark mourning they took the miracle away.
They haven’t, it’s just been recorded and presented in a digi-pak of sublime, melancholic wonder for us all to purchase, listen and revel in. Encircled have done it again, getting under my skin and sinking in to create a warming glow. This is another gem of an album from the band which sees them grow in musical stature and as soon as ‘The Universal Mirth’ finishes, I find myself wanting to play it again, as you may well do.
Time to cuddle on the sofa with the lights low, quality scotch in hand and press play/repeat.
Arnór Dan, the multi-award winning vocalist and front-man of Iceland’s Agent Fresco, released his debut solo single, ‘Stone by Stone’ today via Clash Magazine, who are calling it ‘a beautifully nuanced, highly graceful return.’ An ambient track that gradually builds with cinematic strings and hypnotic percussion, ‘Stone by Stone’ is a fragile and haunting lament that highlights the void created in the current digital age. Despite being consumed by our innate desire for intimacy and connection, this era is marked by an unavoidable sense of apathy that feeds a grander sense of detachment.
The accompanying video features an emblematic intimate portrayal of two mysterious figures isolated from each other within the infinite, sweeping vistas of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. The tranquil imagery accentuates the simultaneous detachment and longing they feel toward each other, with the focus shifting from the minutiae of their present moment under a magnifying glass to a broader picture of the beautiful, natural world that surrounds their affairs.
‘Stone by Stone,’ which was co-written with Janus Rasmussen (Kiasmos) and Sakaris Emil Joensen, provides a perfect musical foundation for the delicate, ethereal timbre of Arnór’s voice and showcases the vocalist at his most tender and contemplative while drawing parallels to the collective conscious.
Arnór has lent his vocal talents to several projects, including celebrated Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds (with whom he also collaborated on the BAFTA award-winning soundtrack for ITV’s Broadchurch), the acclaimed anime Zankyou No Terror with Yoko Kanno, Hugar, and Agent Fresco. In 2016, Arnór won ‘Male Singer of the Year’ at The Icelandic Music Awards for his sterling and varied work on Agent Fresco’s second full length album Destrier.
The Pineapple Thief have launched their brand new video for “Try As I Might”, the new single from their forthcoming new studio album Dissolution. The highly anticipated follow up to 2015’s Your Wilderness, is the band’s second album to feature King Crimson and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison.
Vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Soord explains his dystopian view, “The video follows the theme of the song and the album – if you sign up to this hyper connected world we live in, then you have to live with the consequences. Try as you might to get out of it.”
The futuristic clip was created by Blacktide Phonic/Visual (www.black-tide.co.uk) director George Laycock, who expands on how he created the film “When The Pineapple Thief came to me with their track ‘Try as I might’, they had a broad basis for an idea for a music video that dealt with a social media obsessed ‘connected’ world.
This had nods to previous films and television like ‘The Truman Show’, ‘Black Mirror’, the ‘Big Brother’ landscape and its preceding shows, so it was about creating a storyline using these broad influences and encapsulating into an obscure 3 minute film on a budget.
I was interested in the concept of ‘in eye cameras’, scary technology I am sure isn’t too far away from us. We decided to go down the optical medical route and follow our character on a journey from first pre-operation, to surgery, recovery and then trying to battle the decision he has made, whilst battling with the corporation he has signed up too. The film hopefully leaves the viewer to create their own conceptions on his outcome.
We filmed it all on the Dorset/Devon coastline around where I live and were fortunate to be able to secure great locations to shoot in with a few favours, including a remote seaside post-modern house, a private beach and a real working hospital and opticians.
To keep the cast down to a minimum I decided that the camera that is watching Bruce would become the main supporting actor and his nemesis, appearing in scenes without anyone operating it. This allowed us to see the cameras point of view and tell the story to the fictional viewer. This old broadcast camera weighed an absolute ton, and carrying through remote woods, down a mile-long steep cliff path to a beach was a challenge on some of the hottest days of the year. Filming in the water at the end was a welcome refreshment.
Many thanks to all those who helped with the film, especially everyone involved at Yeovil hospital for allowing us such amazing access, and to Bruce for being so amenable about having scalpels inches from his eyeball.”
The Pineapple Thief have grown to become one of the leading lights of Europe’s experimental rock domain, Your Wilderness produced 4m+ album streams, a #7 in the UK Independent Charts and two extensive headline European tours culminating at London’s Islington Assembly Hall where the concert was recorded for the live release Where We Stood, and their new album Dissolution promises to propel the band to even greater heights.
Dissolution will be released in the following formats – all available to pre-order nowHERE
Blu-ray – features a 16-page booklet, the album plus bonus music in a 24/96 DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound mix and 24/96 hi-res stereo audio
Deluxe 4 disc edition – features 52 pages containing exclusive additional artwork, the original album on CD plus a second CD of bonus music, and is topped off with a DVD and Blu-ray featuring the album and bonus material in a 24/96 DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound mix and 24/96 hi-res stereo audio.
All digital & streaming platforms
The Pineapple Thief will be taking Dissolution on the road starting in September 2018, with new dates added for March 2019. This tour includes their biggest show to date at London’s prestigious O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – tickets are on sale now and selling fast: http://www.pineapplethief.com/tour/
ANATHEMA TO HEADLINE CELEBRATORY RECORD LABEL EVENT IN LONDON WITH PAUL DRAPER, IAMTHEMORNING AND GLEB KOLYADIN
We are incredibly excited and proud to be celebrating our first decade as a record label. These past 10 years have allowed us to share and promote our favourite music, which has evolved over multiple genres whilst remaining fiercely adventurous. We kick-off the year’s revelries with an intimate acoustic show in our hometown, London, at the unique and iconic Union Chapel.
Our story began in May 2008 with the partnership between Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness as No-Man and their beautiful, haunting and cinematic album Schoolyard Ghosts. The label’s sound has since been constantly evolving through some truly brilliant and emotively powerful early projects from the likes of Anathema, Porcupine Tree, Engineers, Richard Barbieri, Gazpacho, Nordic Giants, Nosound and The Pineapple Thief, as well as Steven Wilson’s solo material and collaboration with Aviv Geffen as Blackfield.
In recent years the roster has grown to include a broader selection of talent, from the soaring dynamics of TesseracT, to the revenge-pop from The Anchoress, from the heart-breaking catharsis from Lunatic Soul to the electronica legacy of the great Tangerine Dream.
Shaping up to be a year full of celebrations, our first offering is the 10 Years of Kscope event, for which we’ve lined up a treat for guests with special acoustic performances from Anathema, Paul Draper, Iamthemorning and Gleb Kolyadin. This will undoubtedly be a night to remember for music lovers, and may even feature a few surprises…
Anathema, following the release of 2017’s The Optimist, continually evolved by placing hope in the future – from leaving the underground scene they were fundamental in establishing to continually mesmerising the world with stargazing post-progressive alternative rock that knows no borders.
“Welcome to a new Anathema experience: Ambient Acoustic.
In exploring what we might do to expand the music still further, out of thin air came the idea to arrange music in a ‘third way’, in the space between the acoustic band and the live rock band..
With ‘ambient acoustic’ we feel more free to explore many textures, mixing live loops, piano, strings, percussion, electronics, guitars and voices, all within the essence of the songs and the emotions they carry.
We hope you enjoy this next chapter of the story, the journey of discovery, of searching for something that can never really be found.
Much love, Daniel Cavanagh”
Anathema will be performing additional dates as part of their Ambient Acoustic tour in France, the Netherlands and the UK. For full details, see their website.
Paul Draper, one of British rock’s most singular and distinctive voices of the iconic 90s band Mansun, has returned with a top-20 debut solo album Spooky Action (“A properly fantastic album, ★★★★★” Record Collector).
Talking about the show, Paul told us he is “delighted and proud to be playing for my label Kscope at their upcoming 10th Anniversary show. It’s been such an exciting and productive time working with the Kscope team since I signed with them, so genuinely looking forward to playing a few tunes and celebrate with the Kscope family at the Union Chapel”
Iamthemorning, the progressive chamber duo, Gleb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina, formed in St. Petersburg and have released two albums of rich and eclectic music on Kscope, Belighted and Lighthouse, that showcase their brilliance as pianist and vocalist. Their latest studio film and soundtrack, Ocean Sounds, is due for release mid-October.
Gleb recently released his self-titled debut solo album, featuring an array of impressive guest performers, to high praise including a 4 ½ star review from All About Jazz, who said it “finds the magical chemistry to weave everything into a dazzling ride with the smarts of Robert Fripp and the badassery of Beethoven. The spirit of Keith Emerson is probably pumping his fist in delight at seeing such inspired wizardry to carry on the tradition, and who knows, Franz Lizst may be cheering just as loud.”
The pair told us how they felt when asked to perform at the event
Gleb: “For me, London was always a place where all important things happen. And this fall I will be very happy to be on this very special event in a wonderful place with great people and present a few piano passages from my solo album. Very exciting and looking forward to October.”
Marjana: “The first time we met Kscope team was on “5 years of Kscope” festival. It was our first time in London and back then no one knew who we were. It’s amazing how things can change if you work hard enough, and it’s our greatest pleasure to be performing an exclusive chamber set in a wonderful Union Chapel (which was always my dream venue) as a part of the label. We both are very pleased to be invited and are very much looking forward to this wonderful evening.”
“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.” – W. Somerset Maugham
Think about that quote for a moment, it is telling us that all of the greatest things that have ever happened in art are not due to order, they are due to the beauty that can be created from and by disorder.
Greek multi-instrumentalist songwriter and musician Olivia Hadjiiannou (more commonly known, by her initials, as OH.) has created some quite intriguing and wonderful albums that stem from a certain disorder, if not completely but, with her new release ‘Metallia’ she has finally decided that there shall be no holding back!
Here is OH’s description of this mind-bending work:
‘Metallia’ is an epical prog-metal composition in six parts. A multi-layered sonic piece of ravishing solo electric guitars, time-bending tempo shifts, grooving bass lines and deranged drums.
This instrumental progressive metal album will reveal its intricacies and hidden depths over time. It will extract from your mind pure visions, to mend your mental pictures, preen presumptions and to elicit an element of the unexpected….
I am sure that this album will not be to many people’s taste but from the first track, the sonic maelstrom of Red Lion, I was hooked by the immediacy and sheer power of the music. The turbulent anarchy of the angry, crushing guitar riffs and drums pounds you into submission but, after each further listen, you begin to recognise the subtleties as well. The high octane thrills continue with Bee although it’s traditional style intro throws you for a few seconds before the scatter gun guitars seek to pierce your soul.
I’m beginning to feel as if I’m trapped in a maniacal musical tornado from which there is no escape, slowly losing my grip on reality and not giving a care in the world that it’s happening. The crunching riffs and almost choral vocal overlays of Androgyny carry on the full throttle aural assault, it’s like being in a performance of Dante’s Inferno but one that is put to music. The thing is, I’m really starting to enjoy this, am I a masochist? no, it’s just that beneath the layer of lawlessness and disorder you can feel an intelligence at play, one that begins to reveal more of itself through the thunderous dynamism of Resurrection.
There’s tribal feel to Dragon’s Kiss as the tumultuous guitars shred the very semblance of your being, the rhythm swaying in time to the music and the hypnotic vocal overtones. This quite incredible musical experience comes to a close with the aptly named Triumph, a short, intense blast that finally removes any semblance of resistance from your soul as you willingly submit to the masterful chaos that surrounds you.
Phew! That is one highly intensive listening experience that, like all the best, gets better the more you are willing to listen to it and understand every nuance and subtle distinction. OH. has really given all of her musical being to us with ‘Metallia’, a powerful statement of intent from this impressive young woman, just don’t say I didn’t warn you!
One of the more underrated and occasionally much maligned, outside of those that know, musicians of our time was the keyboard genius Keith Emerson. From being at the very onset of British psychedelia with The Nice and progressive rock with E.L.P., Emerson was both an innovator of new music and interpreter of more traditional and classical works; bringing those works up to date and opening the eyes and ears of multiple generations of listeners and musicians to the possibilities of truly clever brilliantly played music.
Emerson was able to create work that kept alive amazing composers such as Mussorgsky, Bernstein and Copeland and introduced them to new and receptive audiences. Keith was also a prolific writer, performer and musician that led him, in the late 1980’s, along with Carl Palmer, to work with another musician with a prodigious lust for creating music, Robert Berry. This led to a band called 3 and an album ‘To The Power Of Three.’ Despite the critical acclaim the band went their own ways before, in 2015, Emerson and Berry came together again and began to create new music for a reboot of the 3 project, to be known as 3.2.
In 2016 tragedy struck, however, as Keith took his own life at his home in California. No-one can truly say for why he took this tragic step, but, from interviews with his partner, Mari Kawaguchi, the doubts he was having (with all the criticism he was receiving) about his ability to play and perform at the high standards which he set himself was, obviously, weighing heavily on his mind. But what is for sure, is that his untimely death left a hole in the musical world and for Berry not only that, but also a body of work for which a decision was to be made on what to do with it.
Thankfully Berry, after a long period of contemplation and grieving, was able to take the snippets of melodies recorded over the telephone, the arrangements written and shared between them, and to put them together not only in tribute to, but also a celebration of Keith Emerson’s life and music. The first thing to say is that this is a ‘proper’ album. It isn’t scratchy recordings or half formed demo’s put out to ‘cash in’ on an artists demise; it isn’t the hackneyed old cliche ‘great career move’, it is a proper album of eight great songs put out with Keith Emerson’s artistic aura breathing through every chord, bar and note. Robert Berry has crafted an album that reads like a love letter to the unique talent that was Keith Emerson. It is full of the trademark keyboard organ sound that marks out a Nice or E.L.P. recording; there’s more than a passing note to The Nice’s version of ‘America’ throughout, there are moments of classical virtuoso playing. I’d say there is (if I wasn’t as cynical a disbeliever as I am) a guiding hand from another place directing the music and production along. Is the spirit of Keith Emerson on this album? well I should say so.
This comes, though, as much from the playing and production of Berry who, obviously, through his friendship and working relationship, has an understanding of where he would have taken this in partnership with Keith, had he been with us all still. This is the great beauty of the album, with production very much in the polished school of late 80’s progressiveness, the sound gives an evocative feel both looking back at a time when Berry and Emerson first worked together and while looking forward to create a fitting end to the career of Keith Emerson.
If, as it has been suggested, Keith was struggling to keep going not knowing whether he would be able to produce and perform work at the standards he set and expected of himself, this album should have proven to him those doubts were unfounded. However, as this album now marks the end of Emerson’s prolific career, it stands as a fitting tribute to and celebration of one of progressive music’s very best exponents, innovators and performers. Wherever Keith Emerson is looking down from, he should be very happy with this work. The fact he is alive and brilliant in this album should also be of great comfort for those of us who loved his music, and, for that reason alone, Robert Berry should be both applauded for and proud of bringing this work to fruition.
I’m a bit late with my review of those musical marvels from East Yorkshire this time. July’s E.P offering from Sleeperman is called Northern Soul Weekender (In Skegness), the place in question between the parentheses giving the usual chortle inducing gentle humour that the band is well know for.
So what do we get this time? Well, my friends, something quite radically different and, to use the old Cuprinol analogy, you do get exactly what you see on the tin! That Motown inspired beat and rhythm you’d expect from a Northern Soul track is present in spades and instantly puts a grin on my face. Mr Skinner’s bass playing is tight and precise and drives the song on with gusto and glee, along with Phil Sharp’s energetic drumming.
John Hilton’s lyrics are as wry and pithy as ever and his unique vocal delivery works really well with that 60’s inspired music.
“She’s spent too long clearing up after everyone else, watched too much TV she’s not been interested in, she’s minded the fort when all the others deserted, punch drunk on disappointment she took on the chin…”
Another thing that really puts a smile on my face is Neil’s funky, soul infused guitar playing, this track really has everything you could want and, once again, proves that some of the best and most original songwriting is coming out of my little corner of the world and, you know what, that really makes me proud!
As usual there is a b-side to the single and this time it’s a rather sultry, blues inspired affair with a really laid back tempo and some rather elegant piano playing. John takes the low key approach on his vocals and, in doing so, see the band produce something even more different than has gone before.